24 Days of Christmas: Day 16-Arthur Christmas

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I am so so sorry we’ve had a gap in these posts, in typical Christmas tradition the last few days have been such absolute madness that I’ve barely had a minute to myself let alone to open my laptop! But rest assured I am back on track and you guys will get every single day before Christmas itself.

As we get closer and closer to the big day it’s only right to make sure my film choices reflect this and so we reach arguably one of the more modern classics on this list, Arthur Christmas.

Unbelievably this was another one that up until this year I’d never seen and I’ve been kicking myself for it, as I’ve been missing out big time. This is the perfect choice for putting on at Christmas time where you’re sitting around with your family as there’s something in it for adults and children alike. It’s the definition of a heartwarming tale as Arthur undertakes an important mission to deliver a little girl’s Christmas present, and ultimately  how his family bands together to ensure Christmas is safe for another year.

Anyone watching it in the UK will recognise at least one of the voices in the film with such great actors such as Hugh Lawrie, James McAvoy and Bill Nighy to name a few lending their voices to the characters, it just adds an extra level of familiarity to the film. It also has to be commended for giving an answer to many children’s question as to how Santa deliver his toys to every boy and girl in one night especially with an ever expanding population. For the answer though I’m afraid you’ll just have to watch it…

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24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 15-Miracle on 34th Street

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The words genuine and heart-warming has been thrown around a lot this month in regards to some of the films on this list, but believe me when I say that this is the iconic film that first inspired those feelings.

Although the 1994 version will always hold a special place in my heart as I was obsessed with Mara Wilson after Matilda, it’s the 1947 version that I think truly embodies Christmas spirit.

Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is an event planner for Macy’s Department Store and after finding that her hired Father Christmas is drunk, a man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) offers to take his place. He does so well that he ends up working as the store Santa but due to his continual insistence that he is the Father Christmas he ends up committed to a mental institution, and his only option is for the court to be convinced that his is the real deal once and for all. It sounds like a slightly depressing concept initially but the real joy in the film comes from Kris (spoiler alert) convincing everyone, in particular Doris’ sceptical young daughter Susan (Natalie Wood).

Watching both young children and adults fall under Kris Kringle’s spell and rediscover their belief in him is so uplifting and enjoyable to watch, and in the end I think that’s part of the success as I believe everyone would deep down still like to believe in Father Christmas. The performances are outstanding and the natural chemistry between the characters, especially between Susan and Kris Kringle is integral to the reason this film continues to inspire people over 50 years after its release.

“Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” It’s that optimism that runs throughout the film, and that’s why I had to include it on this list as I think that’s what people quintessentially love about Christmas, the idea that it feels like anything can happen, maybe even a miracle.

 

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 14- Arthur Christmas

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Another one of the more modern entries on this list but I couldn’t resist including it as I think it’s one of the smartest, most genuine Christmas films I’ve ever seen.

We’re introduced to Father Christmas (Hugh Bonneville) and his two sons Steve, the focused man on the ground in charge of running Christmas operations, and Arthur (James McAvoy) his good hearted but hopeless son who is in charge of the letter department. After a terrible mistake Arthur takes it upon himself to rectify it, and with his GrandSanta (Billy Nighy) and a wrapping elf named Bryony (Ashely Jensen) he sets off to ensure that no child will ever be without a gift on Christmas.

The thing I like most about this film is how it plays on the traditional Christmas myths such as making ‘Santa’ a title which is passed down, and the ingenious explanation as to how Father Christmas manages the incredible feat of delivering presents to all the children across the world in one night.

The recognisable voices add a sense of inherent likability to the characters, as although you might not be able to name the actor, you know the voice and relate to the character as a result. The family focus of the film and Arthur’s determination to deliver the forgotten present means it’s truly heartwarming to watch, but also manages to create genuine sentiment which is what makes it so enjoyable too. It’s such a witty and intelligent film that it makes it a perfect choice for both adults and children and is a sure fire way to keep everyone happy on Christmas day.

24 Days of Christmas:Day 13- Nativity

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It’s around this time every year that one of the most important parts of the run-up to Christmas takes place, and that is the Nativity.

For those of us in the UK it’s something we hold dear to our hearts, and usually with bittersweet memories of the terrible parts we got. Although kudos to you if you managed to bag the coveted Gabriel/Mary/Joseph roles, 6 year old me was quite put out being a narrator.

It’s a wonder that it took so long for someone to make a film about such a beloved right of passage, and as a result it’s no surprise that this is arguably one of the most successful Christmas films of recent years. We start with three friends at theatre school Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman),  his girlfriend Jennifer Love (Ashley Jensen) and their friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) as they’re about to perform a show. We then flick to a few years later and Paul and Jennifer have split up with her pursuing a career in Hollywood as a producer, whilst Gordon works for a prestigious school running their highly regarded Nativity every year. Paul works in a lesser performing school and by an act of misfortune is placed in charge of the Nativity this year,with the headmistress’s childish nephew Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton) to help him. After hearing a chance encounter between Paul and Gordon, where Paul is goaded into bragging that a team of Hollywood producers are coming to see their show, Mr. Poppy spreads the exciting news until  the whole town knows. The only problem is that Paul was telling a big fat lie, and that he now has less that a month to contact and convince Hollywood bigwigs to come to see the show…

The success of the film is largely down to the stellar performances of the children who manage to be both incredibly cute and adorable without being sickly sweet, and give great overall performances. Of course the majority of the film is building up to the final performance and to see whether Hollywood does arrive, and boy is it worth the wait. The songs put ‘Away In A Manger’ to shame, and I defy anyone to not attempt to sing along so catchy are the songs, with ‘Nazarus’ and ‘Sparkle And Shine’ being my personal favourites.

Due to the subject matter and performances it’s truly a heartwarming film and the perfect choice for reigniting the nostalgia of childhood, and what you used to love about Christmas. It’s the perfect time to watch it to get you into the Christmassy mood, as even if you’re too old to have your own Nativity this is one you can enjoy again and again. Plus if you’re going to be brutally honest with yourself, you know your Nativity was never this good.

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 12-A Charlie Brown Christmas

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This is an oldie but a goodie. While my sister and I never really watched the Peanut cartoons when we were little (I preferred the comics), my mother used to love them and it was a love she used to try to pass on by encouraging us to watch this every year.

With imaginative, relatable characters and iconic music it’s not surprising that A Charlie Brown Christmas is something that still manages to compel children, long after they’ve transitioned into adulthood. It’s surprising re-watching it as an adult how profound the message is behind this short film, as when I was little all I noticed was the Charlie Brown was sad about Christmas. But as an adult I realised that it’s actually the widespread of commercialism that’s got Charlie down, and is the cause as to why he throws himself into directing the Christmas play, although alas to no avail. As Charlie’s friends come together and we see Charlie realise that there is still more to Christmas than shopping and presents, it’s not just Charlie’s spirits who are raised. Whilst Linus’ recitation of Luke 2:8-14 highlights the simple intentions of what Christmas should really be about, peace and goodwill to all men.  Whether you’re religious or not it’ll have a different impact for you, but as someone who is the latter I love this reference as it brings me back to my childhood performing the Nativity, and the genuine joy and promise that Christmas would bring every year.

At its core that is what a Charlie Brown Christmas is all about, characters coming together in a touching and sentimental way to remind us what should be most important at Christmastime, and that is something that I think we sometimes need to be reminded of.